Uncommon Marketing

Bringing sarcasm, humor, and common sense to this mess of marketing and business.

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Part I: Demand Generation Readiness

Cover all your bases before spending on tools and people

Getting started with a lead generation strategy requires a certain level of readiness, especially if you are a business marketing to businesses (B2B). But, being “ready” for lead and demand generation goes far beyond getting a Salesforce.com license and a MailChimp account or Constant Contact account. Certainly, those are two of the most necessary tools – salesforce automation and email service provider – that can help manage leads and communicate, but there is so much more to consider, think about, decide upon, and put into place to ensure success.

This blog series is about simply assessing whether you’re ready to do some marketing lead and demand generation. This is important, because I’ve been in many roles and freelance projects where the company lacked resources or the product itself just wasn’t ready to attract and keep customers. My goal is to outline the important items to have ready before jumping head first into spending money on platforms or people. Or, you may choose to just hire a marketer to tackle all these things for you, in which case you’ll want to have a budget prepared to support it. Personally, I love building it from the ground up, because I know it’ll be built right. Either way, this will give you an idea of what a program may look like.

Before hiring a marketer, a team, or even signing on the dotted line for any technology services, I believe it’s a smart move to first assess your readiness to begin driving leads with which to do demand generation. Note I referenced both, there is a distinct difference between lead generation and demand generation. You may learn more about the difference on the recent blog post, “Driving Leads vs. Generating Demand for Small B2B Businesses.”

The following can be used as a checklist or a guide to hold a planning session with your leaders to dive into every major component, so you come out on the other side with a launch plan upon which everyone agrees.

Regardless, taking a look at each of these areas may surface gaps that, if not addressed, could cause a lot of stops, starts, delays, and mediocre attempts that derail your effort down the road – not to mention strain or waste your budget. As ready as you feel you are, doing this may uncover a few ducks left to get in a row before spending any hard cash.

Whether you decide to hire a marketer or not, what follows is a helpful list of the 13 most important things you should have in place if you want to start generating leads and implement a demand generation strategy (and culture!) for your organization. At a minimum, this will help uncover where your marketer, if you decide to hire, may need to start when it comes to basic preparation.

For this first entry, I will list the top 13 that I, from experience, feel need to be in place before spending any money to run a lead generation campaign, or even hiring a bunch of people to run campaigns. Due to the length already, I’ll stop with the list and continue in Part 2 with Section 1: Product, Customer, & Message. As each part is launched, I’ll link the section header to the entry.

A Solid Marketing Demand Generation Practice – 7 Areas to Prepare

Section 1: Product, Customer, & Message

  1. Minimum Viable Product
  2. Know Your Target Market and the Profile of your Best Customers
  3. Offer A Reason to Believe – For Your Target Market
  4. A Message to Support Your Claims

Section 2: Baseline Marketing Assets

  1. A Decent, Easy to Use Website – Make it Easy to do Business with You
  2. Can You be Found by those Seeking?
  3. Good Optimized Content

Section 3: Resources – Who Will You Need to Help?

  1. Sales Resources
  2. Technical Resource(s)
  3. Creative Resource or Agency

Section 4: Budget, Goals, & KPIs

  1. Budget
  2. Goals – What Does Success Look Like?
  3. Define KPI’s – Key Performance Indicators

Section 5: Tools of the Trade

  1. Customer Relationship Management Tool (CRM)
  2. Email Service Provider (ESP)
  3. Marketing Automation, if You Must (not necessary in early stages, IMHO)

To dig into each of these areas, start with the next entry, “Section 1: Product, Customer, & Message.”

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Part 1: The Marketing Struggle for Small Business: Where do you Start?

Hint: It’s not hiring. And it’s not a marketing platform subscription.

At some point in the journey to maturity, established small businesses – whether through a natural progression to maintain steady growth, the presence of increased demands from investors/advisors, or due to the arrival of competition in the area or online who poach customers – make a decision to get serious about marketing.

I’ve seen a variety of situations, but one scenario in particular seems more prevalent among the small, established businesses that are considered the “backbone” of the country’s economy. These organizations are painstakingly built and stabilized over time, brick by precious brick, by one or two owners who’ve known no other business, career, or industry in their lives (or very little). The company, regardless of its size, age, industry, or level of success, has made a few passes at marketing throughout its history – dabbling a little here, a little there . . . eeeking out an email, a webinar, a newsletter, or blog post every now and then, as available bandwidth or employee know-how allows. Marketing tactics and execution tend to be spread across multiple individuals, designating anyone who knows anything about any marketing responsible by way of the “Your-Idea-You-Own-It” policy.

Eventually though, as demand on the business increases, the resources helping with marketing have less and less bandwidth to tend to it. Thus, marketing falls by the wayside, leaving a healthy “List of Marketing To-Do’s” in its wake. What happens next is that the decision maker, who’s achieved growth by careful product development and strategic hiring, makes the decision (perhaps reluctantly) to hire a marketing person OR buy a fancy marketing tool – because All These Things need to be done. Be careful of the marketing tools – these guys are great at what they do when they walk in your doors. What they don’t always make clear is the setup process, time involved, and potential complexity of use. There may even be hidden costs associated with the tool (see Salesforce Marketing Cloud) that are not at first obvious.

On its face, having a large Marketing Tasks Wish List to tackle is an easy problem to solve; however, it’s made complicated if the primary decision maker becomes so focused on getting The Marketing List done that he or she loses sight of why it needs doing. If you’re a business owner with a long marketing task wish list, before tackling that list, ask yourself, “Will the Completed Marketing List drive revenue?” It might, depending on what the tasks are, but it probably won’t; it all depends on what’s on The List, the strategy to address it, the goals you need to reach, and the level of preparedness to do so.

What Should a Business Owner Do When Considering a Marketing Investment?

How do you start spending slow and investing wisely in marketing? Should you hire someone to help? If so, what type of person should you hire? What do you want them to do? What do you need them to do? (Because it’s two different things, I assure you, the wants and needs of the business owner.) How much should you pay them? Do you hire a full-time resource or a part-time resource? These are all questions to answer before you even begin to write a job description.

I recommend business owners hire a marketing consultant first to examine the goals and resources, among other things, and bring to light what type of strategy will be most effective to reach the goals – not to mention assess the readiness to pull it off. Oftentimes these small businesses find themselves poorly positioned to do the kind of marketing they need to reach their goals, or to even see significant enough growth or ROI. This is where a little marketing forensics is necessary before dedicating the time and expense to hire a full-time marketing employee.

In part II, I’ll explain a little about marketing forensics in addition to making some other recommendations for what you can do now, and in the future, to get your marketing off the ground.

READ Part II: The Marketing Struggle for Small Business

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Digital Desperation – “Buying Traffic,” and Why It’s A Bad Idea

I recently abandoned an online job application after spending an hour on it, just based on my professional principles.


The question had to do with “best practices” and “metrics” around “buying traffic.”  I began to write my answer, and, the longer it became, the more I began to doubt whether I wanted to work for this company.  My own personal “best practices” kicked in, you know, those best practices that have made me successful.  I realized that, if I submit this application, I am doing so entirely against my core professional beliefs.


If, as a business, your core strategy is to “buy traffic,” you’re missing the entire point of engaging with your audience based upon the very principle of adding value.  You’re wasting dollars by casting a wide net and hoping the fish are there (affectionately known as the “Spray and Pray Method”).  Casting a wide net rarely results in an effective ROI. The more effective approach includes targeting your content while leveraging technology to capture what the responders need or want from you.


Alternatively, develop a targeted content strategy (this includes “offers”) that meets the needs of the customer and communicates the right message, at the right time, in the right channel. With so many paths to engagement today, every customer will have a preferred method of communication. That may be email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.


So, what are the key performance indicators of an effective content strategy?  Identifying your KPIs depends on your goals for your business; however, most of the time, the relevant metrics for a targeted content program are  1) Response, 2) Engagement, and 3) Conversion.  Whether that conversion is identified as purchasing an item, downloading a piece of content, or just an opt-in to your email list – how well the channel, offer, and content contributes to the business goal (usually, revenue) is the true measure of success.


If I were tasked with increasing your sales from online marketing, “buying traffic” would be the absolute last resort tactic. I personally think “buying traffic” comes from a place of desperation, and your audience can see it for what it is.


In my next blog post, I’ll cover some of the steps to take to improve and optimize current programs, targeted messaging, and examine the question, “Are you meeting the needs of your customers?”  Have a great weekend!